You recount the history of the French garden.

From above, I see tight rows of trees beside threadbare grass.

When the language teacher talks about le capitalisme:

the gesture of three fingers rubbing imaginary fabric.

I’m a tourist, vulnerable and stupid,

my legs showing, shoes practical, face red.

Together, we try to reconstruct an anecdote

whose contents have scattered. A motorcycle passes, a French police siren

you say sounds innocuous then we both laugh sourly.

I hadn’t seen a woman slap a child in some time.

A truck reversing, and the alarm that continues for hours one morning.

Porn on a handheld device, its tinny echo in a room

with bare floors and very little furniture.

Across the courtyard, this t-shirt on a hanger out the window

turns in the light breeze as if trying to look behind itself.

I’m consumed with not knowing where to buy paper, safety pins, stamps.

The windowframes of that building are red, emerging from grey gables.

Enormous bumblebee at the threshold investigates the doorway, doesn’t enter.

The flies do; they’re promiscuous; they leave.

I don’t know the word for because.

So each act is disconnected from another.

I can almost imagine there are no consequences,

the days just pass, one sunny, one cloudy, someone unseen shouts, sirens

every few hours, clouds move in a solemn procession across

a wide sky staggered with chimneys,

people wait to cross the street, a large tree tosses its wig a little.

Other small trees in the courtyard flicker.

They are responsive.

The sun heats the pavement; le pavé répond.

You send me a short erotic video, you’re naked, propositioning me.

Do you act more like the coin or the water?

Across the narrow street this bird

sipping from roof puddles

seems more dove than pigeon.

Pacing, grandmotherly, she keeps stopping to look at me.

Do you just know how to love another person

like someone knew to paint those windowframes red?

Most of the architecture looks floral, like a boring math problem.

The crosses that reach and reach.

Why does the scrape of the furniture when I rearrange it

sound like crass American English to me?

I slept late, now I’m watching the clouds, like clouds

in an eighteenth-century painting. Overly articulate.

Except these clouds are not trying to symbolize anything.

Where’s my dove.

I always want to go look at people.

A booth selling copies of copies of Louis Vuitton.

The small shadow the roof makes on another roof right next to it.

When my friend came to Paris she wanted to break everything.

Impeccable shoes on the impeccable feet.

Clothes so new they’re creamy, and to seem to never have to compromise.

I feel tattered when I’m actually not;

I’m an American, I eat.

A huge decorative basket of citrus stationed beside me in the upscale bistro.

The woman from a building opposite comes down, indignant:

Who threw a pomelo into my window?

You read to me about the history of the barricade.

I picture the drab suburbs.

The shoulders and elbows of people in the museum evoke more reaction

in me than most of the paintings.

A young lithe person with live eyes tends bar, gender trouble tattooed up their arm.

I count twenty-nine sleeping bags lined up beneath the overhang

and each one inhabited.

I read to you about the history of enclosure.

Two people talking on a balcony, their black hair blowing.

One leaning over into the courtyard.

Behind the cathedral, vulgar black felt stapled in the raised flowerbeds

to mask their frames.

The river stinks, allures, as a specific person can.

A repository, a consequence, a long sentence, an ongoing story.

The generous current cut through by a party boat shouting

wooo! wooo! wooooooo! wooo!

emitting an obscene light

waving at whatever will wave back

A Sunset

I watch a woman take a photo
of a flowering tree with her phone.
A future where no one will look at it,
perpetual trembling which wasn’t
and isn’t. I have taken photos of a sunset.
In person, “wow” “beautiful”
but the picture can only be
as interesting as a word repeated until emptied.
I think I believe this.
Sunset the word holds more than a photo could.
Since it announces the sun then puts it away.
We went to the poppy preserve
where the poppies were few but generous clumps
of them grew right outside the fence
like a slightly cruel lesson.
I watched your face, just out of reach.
The flowers are diminished by the lens.
The woman tries and tries to make it right
bending her knees, tilting back.
I take a photo of a sunset, with flash.
I who think I have something
to learn from anything learned nothing from the streetlight
that shines obnoxiously into my bedroom.
This is my photo of a tree in bloom.
A thought unfolding
across somebody’s face.

No More Birds

Enough birds.
No more branches, no more moon, no more
clouds, light glinting on
no more water. Refuse to sing because
the song is stuffed and birds
they lilt and carol wordlessly of what, of whose
turn it is to bird and bird and bird
the same translations as assigned.
Whose turn is it to open-throated sing?
And what world’s turn is it
to be sung of, a thing made noticed
that isn’t, its beauty insisted. Who called again
to say what’s ugly? Who pointed
from the other side of town, and which
frayed hem of a chainlink fence
did they mean. Did they mean
to suggest or outright say
is distinctly unbeautiful. This face?
The hand that cups it
or refuses to? The bodies
we inherited and tried to slip out of by pressing
pressing them together
together into finest dust? In which these little
dun intelligences do chip and flit. Do we, ought we
to care? For one another, yes.
Come here and crouch with me
at the unremarkable front stoop
of this medium-sized aspen tree
on an unnamed side of town.
Listen to their chattering or shrill world-songs
about our plastics and forgetfulness and bombs,
bombs of much unnumbered rubble, bombs of the reasonable
fear of bombs, dividing the living
from the living, towns from towns, constant speaking
or lip-synching with feathers
over the sound of the erosion of
whose turn it is to listen. Listen,
time to quiet down, beauty. Time to world.


boxes taped up and up then tied with twine | addressed on every side | in that careful longhand taught on other continents | they looked like mail bombs | going round and round the carousel | in a regional anxiety | stinking barrel of sheep’s cheese beaded in sweat | olive oil tin wrapped in much plastic | each printed letter a rounded separate bundle | standing on its own | the sore thumbs of my parents’ immigrant luggage at the United terminal | a friend who doesn’t speak at airports | except when spoken to | word for home that could also mean journey | or never-arrived | at the baggage claim | a person waits in a t-shirt printed with English words | whose arrangement is nonsensical | and it doesn’t matter | that what matters is far | while right here at any moment—  | no one need remind anyone | tether that | suitcases duffels packages | taped and bound so emphatically they look like total crap| what matters is the words are undeniably English | anyone can tell you this | is why the shirt exists | tether that to this | anyone whose intimate particular knowledge lives | with a line drawn through it | “they were a simple people” | my mother often said | from whom she untethers | and bundles into packages | all taut with twine and sends away | at the carousel on which they circulate | printed with her surname | she could | and might refuse them | that “they were a simple—” | was the sort of thing that sparked in me a rage | which I am only now beginning to draw a line through | line I wish to repeople myself | on the other side of | with a friend | a dear friend | who | doesn’t speak at airports unless spoken to